JONESBORO — In response to Arkansas’ significantly high infant mortality rates, a local physician and public health practitioner have secured a grant to provide education and resources to mothers in the state.
Christine Hartford, M.D., a board-certified pediatrician and clinical medicine faculty member at New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine at Arkansas State University (NYITCOM at A-State), and co-investigator Jennifer Conner, Dr.PH., associate professor at NYITCOM and deputy director of the Delta Population Health Institute (DPHI), have received a $10,000 Community Access to Child Health (CATCH) Implementation grant from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to address the health of mothers and infants living in rural Arkansas through education, connection to services, and collection of data.
“We are honored to receive this grant,” Hartford said. “Infant mortality rates in Arkansas are among the highest in the nation, and the Delta has the highest rates of any region in our country, making this one of the most pressing child healthcare issues in our part of the state. Community outreach programs can lead to significant change and improve health outcomes, and that’s exactly what we aim to accomplish through this project.”
Hartford and Conner, along with volunteer medical students from NYITCOM at A-State, will conduct group prenatal visits for pregnant women in an underserved community in the Delta region of Arkansas. The prenatal visits will be in the form of interactive educational sessions that will cover important topics for pregnant women and new mothers, with a focus on those that may help improve infant health such as breastfeeding, safe sleep, maternal depression, healthy maternal behaviors, and vaccinations.
Participants will be provided with informational packets covering a range of important topics as well as a list of local resources specific to the community in which they live. The project will help provide prenatal education to pregnant women, a gap that some mothers in the Delta may experience due lack of access to healthcare, poverty, food insecurity, lack of insurance, and lack of education, among others.
The NYITCOM and DPHI teams hope to help program participants learn about and understand factors that are important to their infant’s health. The project will also inform mothers of relevant resources in their area for both themselves and their infants and help connect them to services as needed.
The CATCH program, a flagship initiative of the AAP, supports pediatricians and residents to collaborate within their communities to advance the health of all children.
“As a pediatrician, I’m extremely passionate about the health of children, and I’m honored to have an opportunity to take on such a worthwhile project,” Hartford said. “I’m grateful that the AAP recognizes the importance of addressing this issue in our state, and I’m humbled at the opportunity to help lead such a project.”